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Children’s Fiesta Parade Takes Over State Street as Kids of All Ages Celebrate Old Spanish Days

More than 2,500 dancers, riders, marchers and plain strollers stream through downtown, continuing Santa Barbara’s 86-year-old tradition

Elaborate costumes are a hallmark of the annual Children’s Fiesta Parade (Desfile de los Niños) through downtown Santa Barbara. The 86-year-old Old Spanish Days tradition drew more than 2,500 participants Saturday. Click to view larger
Elaborate costumes are a hallmark of the annual Children’s Fiesta Parade (Desfile de los Niños) through downtown Santa Barbara. The 86-year-old Old Spanish Days tradition drew more than 2,500 participants Saturday. (Brooke Holland / Noozhawk photo)

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Santa Barbara continued its week-long celebration of culture and tradition Saturday morning with the Children’s Fiesta Parade (Desfile de los Niños).

Throngs of children and families dressed in colorful Spanish, Mexican and cowboy costumes took over State Street as they marched, danced, and rode in strollers and wagons during the 86th annual parade, part of the community’s Old Spanish Days festivities.

Thousands of people lined the street, watching as more than 90 entries of community groups, clubs, dance schools and multiple families took center stage.

The event featured more than 2,500 participants, with goats, ponies and dogs adding to the fun.

Twirling their dresses with smiles on their faces were dancers from Culturas Dance Gallery, West Coast Ballet, Linda Vega Dance Studio, Boscutti Ballet from Lompoc and Ballet Folklorico Mexico Azteca from Burbank.

For Santa Barbara resident Jeana Morelli, the parade is part of a tradition that seven generations of her family have participated in.

With a microphone in her hand, she announced the parade-goers’ organizations as they strolled down the street. She was surrounded by her 3-year-old granddaughter, a sister and friends as the group watched and clapped for participants of all ages.

“The event is a spirit that was born with me,” said Morelli, a member of the Native Daughters of the Golden West. “I love carrying on the tradition, and it’s wonderful to see the families.”

Dressed in an elegant blue flamenco costume with tiered ruffles at the hem and a flower behind her ear, 14-year-old Jenesis Negrete traveled from Los Angeles to participate in the parade. She marched side-by-side with her family members.

“My grandparents have been in the parade for years,” she explained. “I like coming here, getting dressed up and spending time with my friends, too.”

Participants streamed down State Street, from Sola to Ortega streets, shouting, “Viva la Fiesta!”

Along the route, they threw multicolored confetti at spectators and handed out carnations.

For San Diego resident Cynthia Collins, 57, the four-hour drive was worth the weekend-long celebration. She said the excitement and community-oriented event — with entertainers, dancers and musicians — keep her coming back each year.

“It’s great to be able to say that I’ve been coming here since I was 12 years old, and it brings back a lot of good memories,” she said. “Over the years the parade has become more diverse. Now you see different nationalities and a community of diverse people celebrating the culture.”

The Children’s Fiesta Parade is funded by a grant from the Wood-Claeyssens Foundation and hosted by members of the Santa Barbara Parks & Recreation Department.

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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